I felt bad about asking, but I was burning to know how much they were asking for that bag of firewood.
People with wood-burning stoves keep an eye on these things in supermarkets while others compare the price of baked beans and loo rolls.
I kept praying that I’d seen the light: maybe burning lumps of wood was going to be cheaper than gas and electricity in this cruel energy crisis.
A comforting thought to keep me warm during the long hard winter slog ahead.
Just like my wife’s plan to invest in a pair of hooded gowns she spotted online.
We’ll look like a pair of high priests from Game of Thrones.
But it began to dawn on me that burning firewood might be about as economical as lighting bags of five-pound notes, just like gas and electricity.
Burning money with energy prices
I was checking wood prices with renewed vigour because I was in shock after a lengthy conversation with someone at M&S energy, which powers light and heat to our humble abode.
It’s basically Octopus which supplies it, but M&S has a branding deal to sell it on to their customers.
We’d just got back from more than a month away and as I stared at our latest digital energy bill I expected to see a big fat zero where our electricity and gas costs were usually listed.
But the amount owing was virtually the same as the previous month.
I began telling a bemused customer-relations person that I’d been robbed and demanded an instant refund.
As soon as she said, “Ah, but there were a lot of variables about calculating your bill” my heart sank; I knew I was doomed.
Her explanation was going to be incomprehensible to someone like me who was never any good with numbers, no matter how slowly she went through it.
Somehow I just about grasped it: I’d got the wrong end of the stick.
Getting the wrong end of the stick over energy bill
What my inflated energy bill boiled down to was that while their accounting layout on the statement might have looked odd, the system was merely catching up with me being away and unable to supply meter-readings as normal.
In fact, I discovered the reality was that our monthly energy bill had actually already doubled due to the crisis – before we went away – but was only passed on when we returned and updated our readings.
Hence my renewed interest in the price of firewood for my stove.
Europeans are turning to firewood as they seek a cheaper heating source during the energy crisis triggered by Russia's war in Ukraine.
But they face soaring prices, scams and reports of thefts on top of the environmental impact of using wood. https://t.co/seh9iiDirv
— The Associated Press (@AP) October 27, 2022
As I mentioned earlier, I felt guilty about asking a supervisor at Morrisons in Aberdeen to check the price as she had to pick up the heavy bag of wood and wobble over to a distant checkout.
I gulped at the price and declined, but offered in a gentlemanly way to carry it back.
She wouldn’t let me; maybe she thought I had an elaborate criminal plan to do a runner with the bag.
I’m sure firewood was £5.50 a bag for most of this year at Tesco.
But I checked a few days ago and there it had soared to £7.50 – a rise of almost 40%.
But were Morrisons playing us for fools with £8 for the similar bag I looked at?
Matt Hancock likely to be looking for firewood too
Does Matt Hancock know the price of wood these days?
The MP and former Covid health secretary is also likely to be scavenging for wood to keep the campfire going during his controversial booking on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!
After picking up a reported £400,000 he doesn’t have to know.
Protestations that he has an altruistic desire to connect with young people and other worthy causes sound as hollow as a dead jungle tree.
He could have satisfied that for free in voluntary youth work and anti-abuse projects back home.
The only connection I can see is that he is demonstrating to young people that they would spend 20 years slaving away in a rubbish job to earn what he picks up for a couple of weeks’ work.
It’s an awful time for any MP – or MSP – to be making clowns of themselves in light entertainment, even although you expect them to act like clowns in parliament – that’s different: it’s their proper job.
Recent polling showed public disgust with politicians had reached a new high.
So it’s terrible timing by Hancock, especially when so many are suffering.
He’s collecting five times his parliamentary salary, maybe fearing he won’t survive five years’ more as an MP – despite having a supposedly “safe” Tory seat.
In the writings of Luke in the good Book, Jesus warns against avarice.
But in their writings, the Pet Shop Boys mocked religious piety over grabbing what we can with “It’s a Sin”.
However, after all is said and done, let’s be honest: wouldn’t we all grab £400,000 in a flash?
David Knight is the long-serving former deputy editor of The Press and Journal